Expectation versus provision in the management and use of urban open space
Ravenscroft, N., (1995) Expectation versus provision in the management and use of urban open space. Working Papers in Land Management & Development. 34/95. Working Paper. University of Reading, Reading. pp18.
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This paper discusses the implications of the shifting cultural significance of public open space in urban areas. In particular, it focuses on the increasing dysfunction between people's expectations of that space and its actual provision and management. In doing so, the paper applies Lefebvre's ideas of spatiality to the evident paradigm shift from 'public' to 'private' culture, with its associated commodification of previously public space. While developing the construct of paradigm shift, the paper recognises that the former political notions inherent in the provision of public space remain in evidence. So whereas public parks were formerly seen as spaces of confrontation between the 'rationality' of public order as the 'irrationality' of individual leisure pursuits, they are now increasingly seen, particularly 'out of hours', as the domain of the dispossessed, to be defined and policed as 'dangerous'. Where once people were welcomed into public open spaces as a means of 'educating' them in good, acceptable, leisure practices, therefore, they are now increasingly excluded, but for the same ostensible reasons. Building on survey work undertaken in Reading, Berkshire, the paper illustrates how communities can become separated from 'their' space, leaving them with the overriding impression that they have been 'short-changed' in terms of both the provision and the management of urban open space. Rather than the intimacy of local space for local people, therefore, the paper argues that parks have become externalised places, increasingly responding to commercial definitions of culture and what is 'public'. Central urban open spaces are therefore increasingly becoming sites of stratification, signification of a consumer-constructed citizenship and valorisation of public life as a legitimate element of the market surface of town and city centres.